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Forbes article on how the Jets are approaching Free Agency


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How The New York Jets Are Approaching Free Agency And The Rest Of The NFL Off-Season


J.P. Pelzman Contributor


The Jets saw the end of an unsuccessful era in 2018, but also the beginning of what they hope will be a much better one.

After missing out on the playoffs for the fourth straight season under coach Todd Bowles (and the eighth consecutive one overall), they jettisoned Bowles in favor of also-fired Adam Gase of Miami. They hope he eventually will be able to guide to elite status the promising Sam Darnold, who showed flashes of brilliance during his rookie season last year but still has much to learn.

General manager Mike Maccagnan, who came in with Bowles, survived the purge, but mostly because it was his trade that enabled the team to draft Darnold. Acting owner Christopher Johnson has made it clear Maccagnan must improve.

Expiring Contracts

Cornerback Morris Claiborne has had his moments in two years as a Jet and stayed much healthier than he did during his five-year tenure in Dallas, which enabled him to record a career-high 14 pass breakups in 2018. But he has been penalty-prone, and the Jets can and should do better at this position. They should move on.

They also must move on from slot corner Buster Skrine, who has been a penalty-prone, coverage liability since Day 1 in his four years with New York. It’s time to give someone else a shot, starting with 2018 sixth-round pick Parry Nickerson from Tulane.

Left guard James Carpenter was solid for most of his tenure with the Jets, but his performance slipped in 2018 and he missed the last six games with a shoulder injury. Spencer Long, a free-agent signee last season, struggled at center in 2018 partly because of a finger injury that led to some wayward snaps. But he was solid when he moved over to left guard in place of Carpenter, and his play at that position warrants leaving him there and letting Carpenter walk.

Jermaine Kearse had a subpar season in 2018, but part of that could be attributed to bad play-calling by offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and Darnold, as young quarterbacks are wont to do, locking in on his primary receiver too often to the exclusion of all others. He should be re-signed and likely can be gotten at a favorable price. Restricted free agent Robby Anderson is worth bringing back, but his slight frame makes him unsuited for the role of No. 1 receiver. He has the speed to blow the top off deep defenses, but does not win enough 50-50 balls.

Veteran nose tackle Steve McLendon is not a fit for new coordinator Gregg Williams’ 4-3 base defense and thus almost certainly will not be re-signed.

Kick returner Andre Roberts and kicker Jason Myers (a waiver-claim pickup) both had career years under special teams coordinator Brant Boyer and should be brought back. (As was Boyer, who was retained on Gase’s new staff.)

Team Needs

The Jets have a lot of work to do (and more than $90 million worth of salary-cap space to do it, according to overthecap.com) to build a Super Bowl contender around the maturing Darnold. The offensive line finished 25th in the NFL in the rankings of analytics website Pro Football Focus, with left tackle Kelvin Beachum (66.0) posting the highest individual ranking. So help is needed there and at running back, as the Jets likely will let injured Bilal Powell walk in free agency and might not bring back the mercurial Isaiah Crowell.

Cornerback was a problem area on defense, and, as always, the Jets need more of a pass rush. They have lacked an edge rusher that makes opposing offensive coordinators lose sleep since they traded away John Abraham before the 2006 NFL Draft. That trade did enable them to select longtime stalwart center Nick Mangold, so it wasn’t a waste. Still, it’s a void that never has been filled.

Off-Season Targets

Maccagnan always has said the draft is what the organization primarily wants to use to build the team, but his spotty record in the draft and the abundance of cap space should lead to the Jets being major players in free agency next month.

Most NFL analysts don’t see any true No. 1 receivers in this year’s unrestricted free agent crop, so maybe the Jets should table that need for the time being. They don’t need the headache of Pittsburgh’s talented but mercurial Antonio Brown, so they shouldn't pursue trading for him.

What would help take pressure off Darnold is a big-time running back, and the Jets should make a run at Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell. Yes, he could be a bit rusty after sitting out 2018 in an ongoing salary dispute, but that also means less wear and tear for Bell, who will turn 27 years old this month.

There are plenty of edge rushers scheduled to hit free agency, although some certainly will be franchise-tagged or re-signed. With that in mind, the Jets should consider strongly New England’s Trey Flowers, who had a career-high 7.5 sacks in the regular season. The Patriots have plenty of impending free agents and might not be able to afford Flowers. There also will be edge rushers available in the draft.

The Jets could look into trading defensive tackle Leonard Williams, but before that happens, Gregg Williams should look at the 2018 film and note that Leonard Williams often pushed the pile and the pocket and created plays for others. So maybe his stats weren’t gaudy, but he had an effect nonetheless on opposing offenses. He could be a much better fit in the 4-3 than the 3-4. The same goes for linebacker Darron Lee, who wasn’t physical enough to be a 3-4 linebacker but could be solid on the outside in a 4-3. But the Jets would be well-advised to not pick up his fifth-year option for 2020 and let him prove it first on the field in 2019.

As for the draft, if edge rushers Josh Allen (Kentucky) and Nick Bosa (Ohio State) are gone by the time the Jets' pick, the third overall, comes up, perhaps they should look into trading back in the first round and getting either a wide receiver or an offensive lineman to help Darnold.

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9 minutes ago, johnnysd said:

Article title is uber deceptive. It's not how the Jets  are approaching free agency but just what some random dude thinks they should do.

Yeah that became apparent when I actually read it.  He provides some good thoughts but nothing new really...

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nothing new here. mac needs to have a stellar draft and make some good free agent moves.  kind of agree on lauching some of the mentioned players.  i don't necessarily understand why people focus on anderson's slight frame.  he's only about 10 lbs lighter than guys like moss were.  his main problem is attitude on the field.  he needs to be a more complete receiver.  and let's not focus everything on edge rusher.  trey flowers isn't a true edge.  with the patsies it's all about looks and team performance.

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1 hour ago, johnnysd said:

Article title is uber deceptive. It's not how the Jets  are approaching free agency but just what some random dude thinks they should do.

The guy is  legit.  He was the Jets beat writer for the Bergen Record for 2007-2016, so that should say something.  As far as his opinions here go, I agree with virtually all of his points, with the exceptions being, Kearse, who I would cut, and Bell who I would avoid, but understand the interest.  I am also not crazy about Beachum , but get his point,  Other than that, his points are well founded and accurate.

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I agree with his expiring contract analysis.  Keep Long and Winters, move on from Carpenter and the CBs.  

Basically, the Jets should have the most expensive OL in 2019, and the least expensive QB budget.  

The backups should all be replaced with either future starters or starters, and Long, Winters, Beachum and Shell can figure it out.  Dozier, Harrison and Qvale can all be replaced with draft picks/FAs, and next year most of Long, Winters, Shell and Beachum move on.  

The Jets need another veteran receiver for Darnold.  Kearse is a possibility.  It is not like that WR and Darnold need familiarity.  They can consider Kearse along with the other possibilities as a clean slate.  

I am tired of Williams and Lee.  At least Lee is cheap.  I don't know whether Williams is salvageable.  My guess is that he is a beast next year if he is playing for a contract.  Better teams extend the players they want during their option year.  Unless you are driving for the playoffs/Super Bowl like the Rams with Fowler (via Jax trade), you are damned both ways-either you overpay for a player you know was not great, or the player plays well and then signs with someone else (for spite or otherwise) or you have to franchise him (like Mac had to do with Mo, almost 2x).  

A good GM should understand his players well enough to know if they should extended for a fair contract in their option year.  Mac has not been good at this.  

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